Ask the Preacher
Can a person be baptized in the
name of Jesus only?
First of all, let me say that the Bible does not give a "formula" to recite in baptism. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit wording is unique to Matthew in the great commission in Matthew 28:19. In Acts, people are always baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5), and there it is no always worded the same. This itself shows that this was not intended to be a formula for baptism.
Some of those who insist that baptism is to be in the name of Jesus only do so on the basis of their rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. That is a different discussion, but related to this one. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God, but he is a separate personality (John 1; Col 2:9; Heb 1; etc.). Jesus prayed to the Father, which demonstrates two personalities. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all separate entities at Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3:13-17, indicating that they are three separate personalities. So they are one in three, which is why in Matthew it says, "into the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." There is one God and three persons in the one.
There is no basis on which to make baptism in the name of Jesus "only" as a requirement for baptism. Furthermore, there is no baptismal "formula" given in scripture on what to say (Jesus vs. Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The early church understood baptism to be Trinitarian as they baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
What does "in the name mean?" Usually it means by the authority of, though in Matthew's great commission it is "into the name of…" This phrase often denotes a transaction where ownership or monies were transferred in ownership from one person to another. So the baptism denotes a transfer into the trinity in Matthew.
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